The Government is committed to supporting the parents of deaf children and children with hearing loss to learn British Sign Language (BSL) and other non-verbal communication. It is vital we ensure neither deafness nor being hard of hearing is a barrier to learning and participating in society and I therefore welcomed the passage of the British Sign Language Act into law. The BSL Act recognises BSL as a language of England, Wales and Scotland in its own right.
Funding is available through the Adult Education Budget (AEB) for qualifications in or focussing on BSL up to and including Level 2. About 60 per cent of the AEB has been devolved to Mayoral Combined Authorities, who determine which provision to fund for learners who live in their areas. The Education and Skills Funding Agency provides the remaining funding for learners who live in non-devolved areas. Community-learning providers offering BSL courses are responsible for determining the course fees, including levels of fee remission. For some BSL courses, Adult Learner Loans (ALLs) are available, and parents can find more information about which qualifications are eligible on the GOV.UK website at: https://www.qualifications.education.gov.uk/Search
For parents learning BSL on an AEB-funded course, there is additional support available to overcome barriers to learning. Providers have discretion to meet costs such as transport, accommodation, books, equipment, and childcare. Learning support funding also helps colleges and training providers to meet the additional needs of learners with learning difficulties and disabilities and the costs of reasonable adjustments as set out in the Equality Act 2010.
More broadly, every local authority provides specialist support services for hearing-impaired children. Legal duties are in place to ensure a local authority keeps the educational, training, and social care provision for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) children and young people under review.
In March this year, the Government published its SEND and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan, which included a number of commitments to train teachers of children and young people with sensory impairments. As part of this, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) is developing an apprenticeship for teachers of sensory impairment, working with universities, local authorities and sector representatives, including the National Deaf Children’s Society, the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the British Association of Teachers of Deaf Children and Young People. Subject to approval by IfATE, the apprenticeship will be published this year and will be delivered in 2025.